Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera

It is funny how one little pasta dinner is the cause of serious debate and unfavorable opinions. After all, pasta primavera simply is pasta prepared with delicately cooked vegetables. What is so serious about that? Well, Pasta Primavera’s origin for one, and its popularity for another.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera reicpe
A Brief History of Pasta Primavera

This pasta specialty is not of Italian origin, but is a 1975 American creation either at Le Cirque in NY City, or in Nova Scotia with a Le Cirque chef/owner connection, (Wikipedia). The recipe’s fame started at Le Cirque where customers could special order the meal because it was not on the menu. Amanda Hesser’s 2009 article in the NY Times, states Jean Vergens, then chef at Le Cirque, hated the dish so much he refused to allow Pasta Primavera cooked in Le Cirque’s kitchen. In order to satisfy their costumers, the staff had to cook the dish in the hallway.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

What is not of debate is, Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey’s article about Le Cirque’s recipe in the New York Times, made Pasta Primavera famous. Unfortunately, the fame of pasta primavera help create its’ loss of appeal. Across America, Italian American restaurants served Pasta Primavera. This crossover from a secret meal specially prepared, to mainstream America changed its identity. How can pasta with vegetables taste bad? It can when mediocre restaurants take over the pasta primavera market, (Hesser, A. New York Times 2009). Unfortunately, a meal created using French and Italian cooking techniques, became ordinary in the mass production.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Pasta Primavera Done Right

I like my pasta dishes with an abundance of extra ingredients mixed with some pasta, not the other way around. Depending on the recipe, pasta is a foundation for vegetables and sauces to stand out. Preparing pasta with good technique and consideration for the ingredients, creates food that is fresh tasting and has good structure and texture. A pasta dinner becomes a light and comforting meal. Pasta primavera is no exception. Primavera means spring and the vegetables and sauce should reflect a meal with fresh green vegetables with a light sauce. A rich and heavy sauce will overwhelm the vegetables and drain one’s energy.

More pasta recipes: Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables, Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Sausage and Pasta

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and, like a lot of their recipes, has a lot of steps. However, these steps help build flavor and develop a creamy sauce without a trace of cream. Even still, this recipe has 6 steps and the original Le Cirque recipe has 10, so fortunately, it is not as involved as the original.

What makes Cook’s Illustrated recipe so different? The pasta is prepared like risotto. This technique develops lightly toasted pasta with a nutty flavor. Additionally, this technique produces a silky and creamy texture and a double layer of flavor from the vegetables.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

I slightly adapted the recipe by adding mushrooms and lightly toasting the pasta. It is my experience the pasta does not toast evenly in a Dutch oven. It is too deep and therefore, you get an uneven toasting. However, it is convenient to cook this recipe in a Dutch oven, otherwise I need an extra-large sauté pan or more pans. My focus is on the flavors of the vegetables and creating a silky-smooth textured sauce. Because I like the flavor of this recipe so much, I decided not to eliminate the step altogether and just pared it down. I was concerned the luscious texture would not be the same without this step.

As the name suggests, Pasta Primavera is a spring meal overflowing with vegetables. Also contributing to the lively spring flavor are wine, lemon juice, and fresh herbs. This is one of the freshest tasting pasta primavera recipes I’ve had. It is a lovely spring melody of asparagus, peas, mushrooms, leeks, and fresh herbs. It is clear the vegetables are the star of the show.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera reicpe

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Gluten-Free Pasta Primavera

A note for a gluten-free version of this recipe. It is my experience that gluten-free pasta breaks down when prepared following the risotto style directions. The result is an unappealing pile of mushy pasta with your delicious vegetables. I recommend substituting the recipe’s method of cooking pasta, and follow the directions given with your favorite gluten-free pasta. I am not certain why my quinoa pasta turned to mush, but it seems a gluten protein structure keeps the pasta shape intact.

You will need less stock and only add it to braise the vegetables. Lightly, cook the vegetables for less time, in a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan. Then, add some vegetable stock and wine and gently braise the vegetables until they are crisp tender. If you wish, just before serving, swirl in a couple of tablespoons of butter to the vegetables for a silkier sauce.

I would love to hear from you. Please tag me @lemonthymeandginger on Instagram or visit my Facebook page if you make this recipe or any recipe from Lemon Thyme and Ginger.  Also, leave me a comment or question in the comment section below the recipe. I love to see and hear about your creations.

Spring Pasta Primavera

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Entree

Cuisine: Italian American

Serving Size: 4-6 servings

Spring Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera is a bright spring vegetable pasta dinner garnished with lemon zest, chives and mint. The texture is creamy, yet there is no cream added. This is because the pasta is cooked like risotto and absorbs all the vegetable stock in the pot. I love the melody of the fresh spring vegetables.

Gluten free note: If you prefer using gluten free pasta, cook the pasta according to the directions on the back of the pasta box. I made this recipe with quinoa pasta and the risotto style cooking method turned the pasta into mush. Briefly cook the vegetables in a separate skillet then add some vegetable stock and braise them until they are crisp tender. You are not going to have as creamy a texture, but the flavors will still be fresh, bright and delicious.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Spring Vegetable Pasta.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, washed then sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 lb asparagus (453 g)
  • 2 cups (330 g) frozen peas, defrosted
  • 8 (about 100 g) white mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • 2 TB fresh mint, minced
  • 2 TB fresh chives, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fine lemon zest, plus 2 TB lemon juice
  • 5 TB Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound (453 g) pasta, like farfalle, penne, campanelle
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
  • 1 oz (31 g) grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

    Prep the vegetables:
  1. Trim off the tough ends from the asparagus. Rough chop the tough fibrous ends and put into a large sauce pan. Cut the spears on the bias into one inch (2.5 cm) pieces. Set the trimmed spears aside.
  2. Wash and trim off the dark green parts of the leeks and add to the pot with the tough asparagus ends. Slice lengthwise down the middle of each leek. Wash each half making sure all the dirt is washed off between the layers of the leeks. Dry them with a clean cloth and slice each half into thin half-moons. Set aside.
  3. Defrost the peas and divide into 2-one cup (250 ml) portions.
    Enhance the broth
  1. Add the dark green leek trimmings and 1 cup of the peas to the pot with the asparagus trimmings. Add the vegetable broth and one cup of the water. Turn the heat to medium-high heat and bring the stock to a simmer. Turn down the heat and simmer the vegetables in the broth for about 10 minutes. Drain the vegetables from the stock through a fine mesh strainer over an 8-cup measuring cup or large bowl. Press down on the vegetables to extract as much of the juices as possible. Discard the vegetables and add more water to make 5 cups of stock. Return the stock to the sauce pan and keep warm on low heat.
    Herb mixture:
  1. While you are waiting for the stock to finish, mix the lemon zest, minced mint and chives into a small bowl. Set aside.
    Cook the Vegetable Medley
  1. Add 2 TB extra virgin olive oil to a Dutch oven and set the stove to medium high. When the oil shimmers, add the leeks and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir to evenly coat the vegetables in olive oil. Cook the leeks until soft and just starting to brown about 4-5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the trimmed asparagus and cook for 4-5 minutes until just tender, but still has a crispy bite. Add the red pepper flakes and minced garlic, stir and cook for around 30 seconds. Add the peas, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Taste the vegetables and add more salt if needed. Turn off the heat and spoon the cooked vegetable medley onto a plate. Reverse.
    Cook the Pasta
  1. Wipe out the Dutch oven and add 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the pasta, stir and cook for about 2 minutes stirring constantly.
  2. Add the wine and cook until the wine has dissolved. Stir frequently while the wine is reducing.
  3. Add the vegetable stock. Turn the heat up to bring the stock to a light boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Frequently stir the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the stock. 10-12 minutes.
    Putting it all together
  1. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, 1 oz (31 g) grated Romano cheese, and half the reserved minced herbs. Stir the pasta until the cheese is evenly combined. Add the vegetables and stir. Season with Kosher salt, ground pepper.
  2. Serve immediately and garnish with remaining herbs and Romano cheese.

Notes

If you use store-bought vegetable stock, use one that is not predominately made with carrots or winter squash. The stock will look orange and so will everything you cook it with. There are many vegetable stocks on the market and all taste different depending on the vegetables used to make it. (This is one reason why I make vegetable stock). I cannot deny the convenience of store-bought stock, but I encourage you to read the ingredients so you know what you are getting.

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Dinner Salad of Sea Scallops and Greens

As the days get warmer and the garden blooms more steadily, my attention wanders outside. I so want to play hooky. Work and chores be damned, the sunshine is calling and I want to answer. My food and meal focus shifts to a less is more attitude, and prefer meals that are easy to prepare. One perfect dinner solution to help my wandering attention span is a dinner salad. And, it is even better when someone makes it for you.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens Recipe

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens recipe

My husband gets the credit for creating this dinner salad. Several years ago, Joe announced he is making dinner then left for the grocery store. Upon his return, he presented a bag full of vegetables and sea scallops. Joe informed me he was making a dinner salad with seared scallops and asked me to make the dressing. I am always a willing helper for any task.  Since that time, Joe often makes this dinner salad of seared sea scallops and salad greens. It is one of the dishes he really likes to cook. Seared scallops with leafy greens is also a perfect meal for two.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and greens recipe

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens

A leafy green foundation is the canvas for seared sea scallops, boiled potatoes, asparagus, goat cheese and fruit. Along with the finishing touches of a simple vinaigrette and fresh herbs, this dinner salad comes together like a work of art. It is a polite salad, as no ingredient demands attention, but each one plays an important role presenting a delicious gift of prized sea scallops.

Here is another dinner salad recipe: Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

We use delicate greens like Boston Bibb lettuce, arugula or young greens as the salad base. They are not the typical composed salad greens, like romaine. Yet, these lighter lettuces work because each serving is plated, not tossed together in a bowl. This way the greens don’t get crushed under the weight of the ingredients. Also, included in the leafy foundation is another green vegetable, like blanched asparagus or green beans. They add crunch and structure to the delicate green lettuces.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens reicpe

There are so many elements in this salad, I am not sure which ones I like best. First, the sea scallops are lightly seasoned then seared for a crispy contrast to the rich briny center. Then there are the potatoes. They absorb a lot of flavor from the salad, especially the vinaigrette. I like to have a piece of goat cheese with each bite of potato. The blend of potato, creamy goat cheese and vinaigrette is one of my favorite flavor combinations. It is like having two salads in one, tangy and creamy potato salad and a green salad.

The fruit is the biggest surprise. There is nothing like a bit of sweetness and acid to cut any rich and fatty foods like the goat cheese and salad dressing. You only need a few scattered pieces, but it makes a big difference. Add in some fresh herbs and salad becomes exceptional and comforting, like the warmth of sunshine on your back.

Learn how to clean and prepare sea scallops here.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens recipe

There is one downside, putting the whole thing together takes some planning. The vinaigrette needs to sit for 30 minutes so all the flavors can blend and infuse. Fortunately, the vinaigrette rests while the potatoes and other ingredients cook. Like a lot of vegetable meals, each ingredient is prepared or cooked separately. The potatoes and salad dressing will take the longest, everything else is just a matter of a few minutes. The good news is, nothing needs to be served hot off the skillet. Although, time the scallops to finish cooking just before you are ready to plate the salad.

Enjoy this composed dinner salad on the days when the sunshine is calling you outside. It is a great dinner for your next date night in.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens

Dinner Salad is easily adaptable any season

Use the greens available in each season, like Boston Bib, arugula, baby greens, and leafy red and green lettuces.

Add fresh herbs like tarragon, basil, chervil, dill, chives, or fennel.

Strawberries, blueberries, apricots, peaches, nectarines are great fruit during spring and summer. Pears, grapes, or oranges are perfect in the fall and winter months.

Additional vegetables like fennel, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, or spicy radishes are great in this salad.

Use a delicately smoked fish or tuna instead of the sea scallops. You may want to eliminate the goat cheese depending on the fish you use. Or add grilled steak or chicken.

Make with a light vinaigrette, not a heavy or creamy salad dressing

Dinner Salad of Sea Scallops and Greens

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Category: Dinner salad

Cuisine: American

2 servings

Dinner Salad of Sea Scallops and Greens

This is a delicious dinner salad with seared sea scallops, summer lettuce, potatoes, goat cheese and fruit. There is just enough of salt, acid, fat, and sweet for a truly composed and healthy meal. A perfect dinner for date night in.

Ingredients

    Vinaigrette - Makes about 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml good quality white wine vinegar*, champagne vinegar, or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp minced shallot
  • 1 tsp minced fresh herb like tarragon, lemon thyme, or basil
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3/4 cup / 185 ml olive oil
    Salad
  • 1 head Boston bib lettuce, cleaned and dried
  • 4-6 baby new potatoes or fingerings
  • 8 spears asparagus, or small handful of green beans cleaned and trimmed
  • 1/2 apricot or peach*, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 oz / 46 g soft goat cheese like Montrachet
  • 1 TB fresh herb, the same one you used in the vinaigrette
  • 8-10 large sea scallops
  • Kosher Salt for seasoning
  • 1 TB Olive Oil

Instructions

    Cook the potatoes
  1. Fill a medium sauce pan with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the washed, whole potatoes to the boiling water and cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork 15 - 20 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Start checking at 10 minutes and every 5 minutes or so thereafter. When the potatoes are done, remove them from the water and let cool. Once they are cool, cut into wedges and lightly drizzle, about a teaspoon or so, the potatoes with the vinaigrette.
  2. While you are waiting for the water to boil start the vinaigrette.
    Make the vinaigrette
  1. Peel the garlic clove and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the green germ, then smash the clove with the side of your knife. Add the vinegar, minced shallots, smashed garlic, mustard, salt, and minced herbs to a small bowl and whisk together until the salt is dissolved. Continue to whisk the dressing and slowly pour the olive oil in a steady stream. Whisk the vinaigrette until it is well combined. Let rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
  2. You will have more vinaigrette then you need. See notes on how to store the vinaigrette for later use.
    Make the Salad
  1. Blanch the prepared asparagus or green beans in salted boiling water. Boil the asparagus for 2 minutes, or if using the green beans for one minute. Drain the water from the vegetable and rinse with cold water. Set on a clean kitchen towel or back in the sauce pan, (off heat) to dry.
  2. Just before the potatoes are finished cooking tear the lettuce into large bite size pieces and add to a bowl. Toss the lettuce with one tablespoon of the vinaigrette until evenly coated. This is just a light coating to season the lettuce. Set aside.
  3. Place the sea scallops on a plate and carefully remove the muscle from its side. This is very tough when cooked. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel on both sides. Season the scallops with a pinch of Kosher salt on both sides.
  4. Heat a heavy duty 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon olive oil and swirl it to evenly coat the pan. When the pan is hot, but not smoking, add the sea scallops to the pan flat side down. Sear the scallops for 2-3 minutes without touching or moving them. Adjust the heat if the pan is getting too hot. Turn the scallops over and sear for 1-2 minutes until the scallops are done. Scallops about an inch in size will be done very quickly about 3 to 4 minutes. They are done when the center is opaque in the middle, and feel firm when pressed with your finger. When in doubt, cut a scallop down the center and check. The scallop won't go to waste, just add it to the salad. The scallops will continue to cook from the residual heat, but you want to remove them when they are just done.
    Plate the salad
  1. On each plate, place half of the seasoned lettuce. Arrange the seasoned potatoes, asparagus, scallops, and fruit on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle small clumps of goat cheese over the salad and fresh herbs.
  2. Remove the garlic from the vinaigrette and give it a good whisk. Pour into a spouted serving dish. Add additional dressing as needed to each salad. You will have plenty of salad dressing leftover to use for another salad.

Notes

* This is a light vinaigrette and not one to use balsamic vinegar. If you have a good quality red wine vinegar it is OK to use. I just have not found one I like, so I usually don't cook with red wine vinegar.

The vinaigrette makes about 1 cup / 250 ml so you will have plenty leftover. Store the vinaigrette in an air tight container in the refrigerator. The vinaigrette will taste better, and last longer, if you remove the shallots from the vinaigrette. Pour the vinaigrette over a fine mesh strainer into a container to catch all the shallots. Discard the shallots and refrigerate the vinaigrette.

If you want to thoroughly emulsify the vinaigrette, it is easy to do with an immersion blender. The vinaigrette made with a blender will be thicker and heavier. I like this salad with a lighter dressing so I mix it by hand and not worry about the dressing being emulsified. It is your choice. Make the salad dressing as you prefer.

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Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Breakfast, how I love thee, let me count the ways. I love thee for the replenishment after an evening’s fast. I love thee for the breakfast coffee which awakens me from my evening slumber. I love thee for the simple unpretentious food like cereal, eggs, toast and fruit which ease me into a new day. I love thee for the endless sweet and savory discoveries that enlighten me.

Alas, more breakfast love has come my way in the form of a new breakfast discovery. It is not sexy or fancy, but belongs in the simple and unpretentious category – baked oatmeal. I happen to like oatmeal, and all hot cereal, so I am open-minded to this idea of baking it. However, if you are not a fan of oatmeal this might be the recipe that will win you over. It is one of the easiest and adaptable breakfast recipes around.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples ad Apricots recipe

For the last 50 something years, I have been dutifully stirring a pot of oatmeal to just the right consistency, without ever questioning if there was a better way. That was foolish of me, because there is. What a novel idea. It is so simple, I am kicking myself for not thinking of this earlier. Apparently, it is an old secret because the Amish have been baking oatmeal for generations.

Baked oatmeal is rolled oats layered between fruit and sweetened with maple syrup and milk. It is like a cross between a bread pudding and a fruit crumble without the crunch. It is not custardy or rich like bread pudding, but there is a similar texture. The rolled oats absorb the maple syrup and milk, plus the juices of all the fruit and spices while it is baking. This process transforms oatmeal from an indistinguishable porridge to a healthy baked breakfast treat. It is so good, you will believe you are eating dessert for breakfast, minus the guilt.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apriots

While I was baking breakfast rolled oats, the house filled with the sweet scent of maple syrup, apple pie and oatmeal cookies. It was quite intoxicating. I had almost forgotten how magical these aromas can be. Despite the fact I had just eaten lunch, the smell of baked oatmeal made me so hungry, I became impatient for the oatmeal to finish. This seductive smell is very persuasive and could convert any oatmeal skeptic to grab a spoon and dig in. Certainly, I wish I knew about this 28 years ago when I tried, and miserably failed, to get my kids to eat hot cereal. I can imagine their chiming, “Is it done yet? Can I have some?”

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Oatmeal recipe

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

Easy Adaptations for Baked Oatmeal

As I mentioned earlier, baked oatmeal is one of the most adaptable recipes around. If you are on a non-dairy diet, substitute milk with unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk. If you are on a vegan diet, substitute with non dairy milk and a flaxseed egg substitute. Full disclosure, I have tested that yet, but I don’t see why it would not work. If you make this a vegan breakfast, please let me know how it goes.

Additionally, use your favorite fruit or whatever is in season. I made this fruit filling because I needed to use up some leftover dried fruit from my pantry. The dried figs, apricots and cranberries went perfectly with apples and minced ginger. Follow the basic recipe, then substitute the fruit with any seasonal fruit you have available, even frozen fruit. They all work. If raisins are the only fruit you want to use, then you will need a fresh fruit like apples, or bananas sliced lengthwise and cover the bottom of the pan. Mix the raisins with the rolled oats and proceed as directed. The fruit on the bottom of your baking dish will help prevent the oats from sticking to the pan.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, is my primary source and where I first discovered this simple but remarkable breakfast. For this recipe, I followed a basic formula I found consistent in most baked oatmeal recipes. Typically, they all had about 2 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of liquid, 1 egg, melted butter, a sweetener, and various amounts of fruit and spices.

March is a tweener month for fresh produce, and why this recipe includes apples and dried fruit. I love to combine fresh and dried fruits. The concentrated flavors of the dried fruit add a lot of fruit flavor. Plus, I had a lot of odd amounts of dried fruit that I needed to use up, and this recipe is perfect for that. My baked oatmeal has a decent amount of fruit in it, but if you want a ratio of more oatmeal than fruit, it is easy to scale the fruit down. Just make sure there is a good fruit layer on the bottom of your pan.

Baked Oatmeal With Apples and Apricots recipe

More breakfast ideas from Lemon Thyme and Ginger:                         Banana Oat Pancakes, Gluten free Dutch Baby Pancake, Lemon Glazed Apple Muffins, Goat Cheese Omelet 

Baked oatmeal is also easy to make ahead and reheat it for a later time. I like to make it on a Sunday morning, then reheat individual portions in the microwave throughout the week. This makes the work week easier to manage when I don’t have to think about what’s for breakfast. You can also prepare it ahead, refrigerate, then reheat the whole dish, covered in aluminum foil, in the oven.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

To be honest, I was surprised at how good baked oatmeal is. However, there is one downsize, and that is I used three bowls to make it. Baked oatmeal may require more cleanup, but it is more enjoyable to eat than the standard stove top recipe. This is one new discovery worth making. Oh baked oatmeal, how I love thee.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

6 servings

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Baked oatmeal is an easy and delicious substitute for stovetop oatmeal. All the ingredients are mixed together to make a comforting and nutritious breakfast. It is perfect to make ahead of time, then warm up individual portions to eat during the middle of the week. This is a delicious family breakfast that all members will enjoy.

Use the basic recipe and substitute any fruit to fit into the current season or personal preference.

Serve warm for breakfast or a hearty dessert.

Ingredients

  • 2 apples which can be different varieties but should be ones that do not get too mushy when baked
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 6 dried figs
  • ¼ - ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 heaping Tbs of minced ginger
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (1/4 tsp if using store bought ground nutmeg)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • Shy ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 2 cups milk or unsweetened nondairy milk - like coconut or almond milk
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F / 190˚C / Gas Mark 5 and place the rack on the top third of the oven. Generously butter an 8’ x 8” (20cm square) baking pan.
  2. Core and slice the apples then chop into decent bite size pieces. There is no need to peel the apples. Mince the dried apricots into pieces between ¼ inch to ½ inch big. Chop the dried figs into bite size pieces.
  3. Add the prepared fruit into a mixing bowl, then add lemon juice, freshly ground nutmeg, and minced ginger. Mix well to get all the fruit evenly distributed. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl mix together the rolled oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and most of the chopped walnuts. (Reserve some walnuts to sprinkle on the top). Mix the ingredients together to get evenly combined. Set aside.
  5. In a third bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, pure vanilla extract, and room temperature melted butter until thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
    Putting it all together.
  1. Add a good layer of the prepared fruit to generously cover the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Add the oatmeal and spread it to cover the layer of fruit. Pour the milk mixture all over the oatmeal, and tilt the pan to encourage the milk to flow into all corners and throughout the oatmeal. Bang the pan against the counter to make sure the milk has flowed completely through the rolled oats and fruit. Add the remaining fruit and chopped nuts to cover the top of the oatmeal.
  2. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until it is golden brown on top and looks set in the middle.
  3. Remove the baked oatmeal from the oven and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon portions of the baked oatmeal in a bowl and serve warm plain, or with additional milk or yogurt. I think it is sweet enough as is, but add more maple syrup if you want it sweeter.
  5. Store in the refrigerator covered for several days. Re-heat in the microwave in a glass container covered with a paper towel.
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Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Usually, when I’m making dinner, my primary focus centers on the main entrée. The side dishes get made, but my attention is elsewhere. It is just too stressful to cook three different recipes, that require a lot of ingredients, prepping, and everything done at the same time. I love vegetables and don’t mind eating them without a lot of flourishment. Yet, they do deserve an opportunity to be front and center. Making a composed dinner doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, just a little foresight.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots

Most people like carrots. When my son Evan was young, carrots was one of the 3 vegetables he ate. This popular vegetable is easy to prepare and does not require a lot of pampering. It is one of the backbones used to make stocks, soup, stews and braises. If you haven’t given carrots much thought, think again. Carrots are so much more than crudité. I love cooking with them because their natural sweetness and sturdy structure make it easy to pair with bold flavors on either the sweet and/or spicy side.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

This recipe was inspired by a recipe written by Nigel Slater titled, Harissa Carrots. His recipe is delicious and is featured in his cookbook Eats. In Slater’s recipe he blanches carrots, then mixes them with harissa paste, egg yolk, vinegar and olive oil. The egg yolk in the dressing made it nice and creamy, but not suitable for a vegan diet. My idea was to make a carrot side dish that everyone could eat. So, keeping the flavor of Slater’s Harissa Carrots in my mind, I created a vegan dressing to compliment the carrots natural sweetness, provide some spicy-heat, and lots of fresh herbs. I have said it before and I will say it again, fresh herbs elevate any food from good to awesome. I do not cook without them.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

In this recipe for Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, I use three different types of herbs. I realize cilantro and dill do not have a big fan club. Yet, if you are willing to be adventurous then reduce the amount of cilantro and see if you like it in a blend. There are times when less is more, but this recipe is not one of them. However, if you do not want to commit to all three herbs, use one or two of them. Mint and dill are especially delicious with carrots. I want you to enjoy your meal, so if you know you don’t like something – don’t use it.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots Recipe

For me, I am no longer fearful or stingy with how I cook with herbs. Many recipes from Middle Eastern cuisine have inspired me to combine herbs and not use them by themselves. There are many herbs that compliment each other, and tasting an abundance of the freshness is always welcome in a recipe.

More carrot recipes: One Pan, One Meal Chicken Dinner

Fortunately, making Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, is as easy as making a salad. Making this dish won’t take up a lot of your attention, but the results will taste as if you slaved all day. The spicy heat is in the background and will grow as you continue to enjoy your meal. I prefer all the ingredients to balance one another. This recipe is not about the heat but about balance, and bringing all these flavors together to give carrots center stage.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots reicpe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots reicpe

Serve with any grilled meats and white meat fish. They are also delicious as part of a vegan bowl made with greens, carrots, chickpeas, a grain, and nuts. Enjoy!

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: 17 minutes

6 servings

Serving Size: 3oz

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Carrots are a great and pleasing vegetable. Their natural sweetness makes them a very versatile food that most people enjoy eating. This recipe for carrots has a nice balance of flavors, not too sweet and not too spicy. I prefer the heat to be in the background and not dominate the flavor of the food.

The fresh herbs add a bright green touch and really compliment the carrot's sweetness. Add all three herbs or just a couple. The mint adds a really nice touch and it is not too overbearing.

Perfect with grilled meats, and most fish. Sweet n' Spicy carrots are also great as part of a vegan meal made with greens, grains, these carrots and walnuts.

Ingredients

  • One inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (smooth or grainy)
  • 2 tsp honey (or 1 tsp maple syrup for a vegan recipe)
  • 1/4 tsp ground chili pepper* (more if you want it hotter)
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • Juice from half a lime, reserve the other half to add if needed
  • 1 Tb red wine vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tb chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tb chopped mint
  • 1 Tb chopped dill (optional)
  • 1 1/2 lbs / 683g medium size carrots
  • 2" piece of daikon radish (3 oz / 87g)

Instructions

  1. Gently scrape off the thin skin of ginger using the edge of a teaspoon. Be careful not to dig into the flesh of the ginger root. Once the skin is removed, thinly slice the ginger and mince. Add to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add the Dijon mustard, honey, (maple syrup), ground chili pepper, lime zest and juice, vinegar, and Kosher salt into the bowl with the minced ginger. Whisk together until well combined.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, a little at a time. While you drizzle, whisk to create an emulsion. Once all the olive oil is added, give it a good whisk to keep the oil and acid from separating.
  4. Taste the dressing and correct the seasoning to suit your taste.
  5. Add the herbs, then whisk to combine. Set the sweet and spicy dressing aside while you prepare and cook the carrots.
  6. Peel the carrots and trim the ends. Cut each carrot in half across the width, then cut each piece in half down the length. Cut all the pieces in half lengthwise to create long carrot strips.
  7. Fill a medium saucepan with water and turn the heat up to high. Add a pinch of Kosher salt, a 1/4 inch sliver of ginger, and 2 crushed garlic cloves to the water. Bring the pot to a boil and add the carrots. Cook the carrots for 1-2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Drain the carrots and pick out the garlic cloves and ginger. Add the carrots to a mixing bowl.
  8. Peel and julienne the daikon radish in long thin strips. Add the daikon to the carrots and gently toss the carrots and daikon radish with your hands to mix together. Before you add the dressing taste it again and make any adjustments. Add the dressing, give it a gentle but good stir until the vegetables are evenly coated with the dressing.
  9. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Notes

Use your favorite ground chili. The ground chili I used has a bright flavored heat, not a smokey one. Sorry I do not know the name of it. I started with a quarter teaspoon of ground chili then added a little more later. This meal is not about the heat, but about the balance of heat and sweetness. Good substitutes are: your favorite ground chili powder, harissa paste, Thai chili paste, or sriracha. Adjust the amount you add to match the chili's heat. Example, if you use sriracha I would begin with 1/2 teaspoon then add more later if needed. Just like cooking with salt, it is always good to start with less then add more.

Do not substitute balsamic vinegar for this dressing. Good substitutions are: white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.

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